‘The Brady Bunch’: Debunking the Myth Show Was First to Feature Couple Sleeping in the Same Bed

by Josh Lanier

You’ve probably heard this before: Carol and Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch was the first couple on television to share a bed. It’s a common piece of trivia that is completely wrong. The Brady’s weren’t the first couple to sleep together. They’re not even in the first 5.

Married couples sleeping in separate beds were a common sight on television in the 1950s. I Love Lucy, Father Knows Best, and The Dick Van Dyke Show, and many more shows featured married couples that were never seen laying in the same bed. Those bedroom sets all had a similar setup — twin beds separated by a nightstand.

The reason is because of the Hays Code, a set of rules for self-censorship that studios agreed to follow, the Daily Beast said. It dictated what was and wasn’t acceptable to broadcast on television. It was full of odd guidelines governing how shows could portray married life.

For example, couples in the same bed had to follow the one-foot rule. That meant one of them had to have at least one foot on the ground while in the bed. Also, shows couldn’t use the word “pregnant” at the time. Lucille Ball was the first openly pregnant woman ever on television, but writers had to dance around it. In the episode where she announces her pregnancy to Ricky (real-life husband Desi Arnaz), she had to use euphemisms like “she was expecting.” Even the title of the episode “Lucy Is Enceinte” is a nod to this. Enceinte means pregnant in French because they couldn’t say it in English. Ultimately, these rules were to make sure that there would be no funny business — wink, wink — happening on American television screens.

Who Was the First to Share a Bed on Television

The MPAA replaced the Hays Code in 1968. That’s where The Brady Bunch comes in. In 1969, when the show debuted, it featured Mike and Carol Brady sharing a bed together. The producers of the show first made the claims they were the TV’s first couple to share a sack. The actors who played those characters — Florence Henderson and Robert Reed — would often repeat this piece of trivia in interviews, but they were wrong.

The first couple to share a bed together on television was actually 20 years earlier on Mary Kay and Johnny in 1947. But Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns were married in real life. Ozzie and Harriet also shared a bed, but they too were actually married.

The first non-married couple to share a bed is actually disputed. Technically, that title should go to I Love Lucy‘s Fred and Ethel in 1955. In the second season, Lucy and Ricky’s loveable landlords share a bed in the episode “First Stop” when they all take a road trip.

Here is that scene.

Some people don’t count this as it’s only a set-up for a joke. Most say Darrin and Samantha Stephens on Bewitched were the first couple to share a bed. Green Acres and The Munsters also predate The Brady Bunch sleeping arrangement.

If you count cartoons, Fred and Wilma Flinstone also shared a bed in 1960.

Compared to today, it’s odd to look back on what was and wasn’t allowed on television. Game of Thrones episodes would have lasted about 3 minutes each if it was held to the same standards as those earlier shows.